Quantifying the impact of housing interventions on indoor air quality and energy consumption using coupled simulation models


While residential energy and ventilation standards aim to improve the energy performance and indoor air quality (IAQ) of homes, their combined impact across diverse residential activities and housing environments has not been well-established. This study demonstrates the insights that a recently-developed, freely-available coupled IAQ-energy modeling platform can provide regarding the energy and IAQ trade-offs of weatherization (i.e., sealing and insulation) and ventilation retrofits in multifamily housing across varied indoor occupant activity and mechanical ventilation scenarios in Boston, MA. Overall, it was found that combined weatherization and improved ventilation recommended by design standards could lead to both energy savings and IAQ-related benefits; however, ventilation standards may not be sufficient to protect against IAQ disbenefits for residents exposed to strong indoor sources (e.g., heavy cooking or smoking) and could lead to net increases in energy costs (e.g., due to the addition of continuous outdoor air ventilation). The modeling platform employed in this study is flexible and can be applied to a wide range of building typologies, retrofits, climates, and indoor occupant activities; therefore, it stands as a valuable tool for identifying cost-effective interventions that meet both energy efficiency and ventilation standards and improve IAQ across diverse housing populations.

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This research was supported in part by an Early Stage Urban Research Award from the Boston University Initiative on Cities and grants T32 ES014562 and R01ES027816 from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, T32HL007534 from the National Heart, Lung, And Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health and MAHHU0008-12 from United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of sponsor organizations.

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Correspondence to Lindsay J. Underhill.

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Underhill, L.J., Dols, W.S., Lee, S.K. et al. Quantifying the impact of housing interventions on indoor air quality and energy consumption using coupled simulation models. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 30, 436–447 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41370-019-0197-3

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  • Indoor air quality
  • Energy
  • Building simulation
  • Multifamily housing
  • PM2.5

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